College basketball season has ended. It’s an opportune time to cast ahead to college football season. Today, we take a look at the schedules. These are not the 15 hardest schedules per se. (Spoiler: every team in the SEC West faces a tough slog.) These are the hardest schedules relative to their conference opponents. Tough non-conference slates, bad home-away splits, and unfortunate cross-division draws can cost a team a game or two. In college football, that can be everything, especially if you are betting win over-unders.
Mike London has reached bowl play once in five years. Again, UVA non-conference scheduling does him few favors. September offers Virginia a cross-country trip to UCLA, plus home games against Notre Dame and Boise State. The Cavs also have a fatiguing, four-game conference swing: at North Carolina, Georgia Tech, at Miami, at Louisville.
RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS
Rutgers faces about the roughest schedule the B1G can offer. The Scarlet Knights play in the rough and tumble East. They drew the two best opponents, Wisconsin and Nebraska, from the relatively benign West. A six-game stretch of Michigan State, at Indiana, Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Michigan, Nebraska will be heinous. Worn down from that, they face Army’s triple option. Washington State, Maryland and a trip to Penn State are also on the schedule. Should be fun.
Non-Conference games vs. Notre Dame (away) and Cal (home) give the Longhorns 11 games against power five opponents. They face an early four-game stretch of two high-tempo teams, Cal and Oklahoma State, followed by TCU (away) and Oklahoma (neutral). Texas also travels to Morgantown and to Waco in November.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Notre Dame’s schedule is subtle but fiendish. Two physical games, UVA and Texas, precede Georgia Tech’s triple option. Navy is sandwiched between a road trip to Clemson and a home date with USC (see: 2-5 record post Navy since 2008). The Irish close the season traveling to Boston College one week and to the opposite side of the country to play Stanford the next.
Some years, Mark Richt benefits from a softer schedule. This isn’t one of them. The Bulldogs drew Alabama at home and a road trip to Auburn from the West. Two possible sandwich games at Tennessee and vs. Kentucky. Keep an eye on their defense late in the season. Last three games: at Auburn, triple-option Georgia Southern, at Georgia Tech. Not the year to fart away a game against South Carolina.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
West Virginia had a favorable conference schedule last year. This year: the revenge tour. The Mountaineers have the best home field advantage in the conference. That won’t come in handy on the road against Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State. Holgo’s teams compete, but this may not be the year West Virginia breaks into the Big 12 upper echelon.
Scholarship numbers are building up for Steve Sarkisian, but USC’s schedule could be trouble. The Trojans miss the two easiest Pac 12 North teams, Washington State and Oregon State. They face Arizona State, Oregon and Notre Dame on the road. USC does get five conference home games: Stanford, Washington, Utah, Arizona and UCLA.
The Gators play Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri outside Gainesville and have just three conference home games. They drew Ole Miss and a road trip to LSU from the SEC West. Florida State is at home, though, if the Seminoles find a quarterback, that may not be much comfort.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Michigan State lost defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi to Pitt. The new coordinators will be tested immediately, by Oregon and a triple-option team the following week. The Spartans’ three toughest conference games – Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State – are all outside East Lansing.
Last year, BYU’s weak schedule precluded them from the national discussion. This year, does any team have a tougher first four games than at Nebraska, Boise State, at UCLA, at Michigan? The Cougars also have November road trips to Missouri and Utah State, both double-digit winners in 2014.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
All SEC West schedules are tough. Alabama’s has extra wrinkles. Wisconsin is a reputable non-conference opponent off the bat. In addition to their now plucky rival Tennessee, the Tide drew the toughest SEC East game possible, Georgia in Athens. An October stretch: at Georgia, Arkansas, at Texas A&M, Tennessee could see them get worn down. They also have to go to Jordan Hare for the Iron Bowl.
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
We love what Jerry Kill is doing. But, he can only do so much. Outside the conference, Minnesota faces perhaps the top team in the country, TCU, off the bat, then travels to Colorado State in a let down spot the week after. Inside the conference, the Gophers drew Michigan (home) and Ohio State (away) from the East. Winnable Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa games are on the road. Minnesota will likely be underdogs in three of their four home games.
GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS
Georgia Tech won 11 games in 2014. They may have a tough time repeating that feat in 2015. The Yellow Jackets drew Florida State at home and a road trip to Clemson for their cross-division games. Non-conference, they play Notre Dame in South Bend and host rival Georgia. Under the radar trips to Duke and Virginia in potential let down spots. Georgia Tech loses a lot on offense. That could be a problem.
Stanford loaded its non-conference schedule. They travel to Northwestern and host UCF the next week as well as Notre Dame later in the season. The Cardinal travel to USC the third week of the season. They do get the five conference home games, though those are against Arizona, UCLA, Washington, Oregon and arch-rival Cal. Stanford’s least tricky game may be at Colorado, which could still get tricky.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Steve Spurrier is looking for a bounce back year. ON paper, the schedule does not line up for that. The Gamecocks have to play North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee away from home. They have non-conference games vs. UCF and Clemson. They also host LSU in a cross-division matchup.
[Photos via USAT]